Hong Kong’s only Canadian school has several distinguishing features, including its innovation and Chinese programmes. But what really sets CDNIS apart is its dual-diploma programme, which see students graduate with both the IB diploma and the Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
The Canadian International School of Hong Kong (CDNIS) is a private school on the south side of Hong Kong Island and is home to around 1,800 students, more than 50% of whom are Canadian. Hong Kong’s only Canadian school is one of six International Baccalaureate schools in Hong Kong to offer all three IB programme. It follows the IB programme from pre-reception through to Grade 12, teaching the Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and the Diploma Programme (IBDP). The non-profit CDNIS is also the only school to offer a dual-diploma programme; senior students take both the IBDP and the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD).
In the school’s latest issue of its Red & White magazine, upper school vice principal David Butler said:
“We call ourselves a Canadian school, and one of the things that allows us to justify that claim is that we offer the OSSD. By having that relationship with the Ontario Ministry of Education, it really shows that we offer a Canadian education here in an authentic and legitimate way.”
With some of the highest average IB scores in Hong Kong, this school has a reputation for turning out elite students.
One school, two diplomas
CDNIS has a lower and upper school, each with its own principal. The Lower School comprises all students from Pre Reception through to Grade 6, and included in the regular PYP curriculum are specialist classes in Mandarin, Music, PE and Library. The Upper School comprises all students from Grade 7 to Grade 12, and take students through the MYP and the IBDP. As part of the MYP, students take the core subjects and specialist classes in French, Mandarin, music, drama, visual arts and health and PE.
What really sets CDNIS apart from other schools is its dual-diploma programme, which sees Grade 12 students graduate with the IB diploma and the OSSD. Unlike some schools in Hong Kong that select only a handful of students to take the IBDP, all students at CDNIS are enrolled in this challenging programme. For the OSSD, students take courses from Grade 9 in the core subjects, French (or another language), Canadian history, Canadian geography, the arts, health and PE, and career studies.
Head of school David Baird promotes the dual-diploma on the school’s website, saying:
“Students in Grades 9 to 12 earn credits towards the OSSD, while in Grade 12, concurrently completing all credits for the IBDP. Graduating with two distinct diplomas sets our students apart from other candidates, particularly when applying to their first-choice universities around the world.”
While parents may be concerned that this programme involves double the workload of students, the programmes actually complement each other and many courses are taught as one. It also gives students the advantage of having a Canadian qualification. To help students select a university, CDNIS hosts hundreds of university reps every year, organises an annual Higher Education Fair, and hosts annual visits during school breaks to campuses worldwide.
CDNIS has a history of innovation, from becoming the first Apple Distinguished School in Hong Kong 10 years ago to being the first international school in Hong Kong to introduce a 1:1 laptop programme. This continues today: Mac laptops are compulsory from Grade 4 through to 12, and the school has robotics and coding labs as well as evolving MakerSpaces.
In 2017, the school launched Project Innovate. Students work with laser technology, VR headsets, robotics, coding and 3D laser printers from Grade 1; new STEM/STEAM facilities are being built on campus; and there’s a promise of “hands on and experiential learning” in maths, ICT, science, literacy and humanities.
The school has always had a strong Chinese programme, and this was boosted by the opening of a Chinese Cultural Centre in 2015. Students learn the language in an immersive environment, from using songs, games and activities in the early years to involvement in the After School Chinese Culture Academy, cultural exchange opportunities and the annual Chinese New Year festivities. There’s a two-stream approach to teaching Chinese that is based on ability and, although it does not offer a bilingual programme, CDNIS’ Chinese offering is impressive.
In the 2017-18 cohort, there was an average score of 36.9 (it has been 36 or above for the past five years); this score is significantly higher than the global average of 29.78. One student scored the maximum 45 points. After leaving CDNIS, 40% of students go on to study at a Canadian university, 28% to the US and 20% in the UK.
Beyond the classroom
As you’d expect from an IB school, there’s a focus on creativity, action and service (CAS). The Timberwolves programme – or T-Wolves as they like to be known – fields teams in a wide variety of sports. The school is a member of the International Schools Sports Federation Hong Kong (ISSFHK) and the South East Asia Student Activities Conference (SEASAC), and CDNIS teams have competed across Asia in various tournaments. It also has a programme of after school activities grouped into arts, sports and academics, and clubs including the environmental club SEED, gardening club, the Model United Nations and a debating team. There’s always plenty of drama on and off the stage with CDNIS’ choice of drama productions, bands, choirs, ensembles, plays and related workshops – and a Leo Lee Arts Centre stage to showcase it all.
This is a school that believes in service, and students get involved in both local and global initiatives through the Local and Global Engagement programme. CDNIS keeps this on the agenda with a Green Week jam-packed with field trips, upcycling workshops, film screenings and more; Grades 7 and 8 Community and Service Days; a CARE Fair attended by NGOs; and a choice of Global Issues Network (GIN) clubs that explore issues such as marine pollution.
Experience Week is another highlight of the senior years’ calendar. This off-site programme for Grades 9 to 12 takes students to some of the more remote parts of Southeast Asia and Australasia; students could find themselves on a school restoration project in a hill country village in Sri Lanka, cooking at a centre for refugees and asylum seekers in Hong Kong or outdoor adventure pursuits in New Zealand.
Located on the south side of Hong Kong Island in Aberdeen, CDNIS has been a flag bearer for Canada since 1991. Students walk past totem poles and Douglas fir trees every morning on their way into this 14-storey hillside campus, and senior students are immersed in a Canadian education.
The lower and upper schools share facilities including a 25m swimming pool, gymnasium, Leo Lee arts centre theatre, Chinese cultural centre, and a green roof. There's also a OneDoor Centre, which is a ‘21st Century Learning Space’ where students can focus on STEM, STEAM, coding, robotics and design. The school was founded 25 years ago and it is constantly updating the campus. In 2018-19, we can look forward to seeing the opening of a Reggio Emilia-inspired Early Childhood Centre.
Health and safety
There are two full-time guidance counsellors for pre-reception to Grade 6, three for Grades 7-8 and five for Grades 9-12, as well as a wellness officer and a school psychologist.
"When students enter Grade 9 they are assigned a guidance counsellor who stays with them until Grade 12, so they get to know the child and the family."
Admission and fees
CDNIS is a selective school, and all applicants must sit an assessment exam/interview.
The cost of an education at CDNIS is average by Hong Kong standards. Annual fees start at HKD 152,000-for Grades 1 to 3, and rise to HKD 198,800 in Grades 11 to 12, and the annual capital levy (ACL) is HKD 35,000 if a debenture is not purchased.
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